Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Rehearsal #11: Games and "Middle" Scenes

All Female-Cast this Thursday!

We had our last rehearsal for the show last night, and we made it count.

Lyn returned after two weeks in China, so we spent the beginning of rehearsal going over what we’d learned and worked on over the last couple weeks. Then we moved on to playing games.

In the shows we’ve gotten into something of a rut of playing the same handful games all the time (and even playing them at same points in the show). Our homework was to come in ready to introduce a game within the style of the show that we hadn’t really done yet. I set up the “audience word song” game by pretending to be Clive Anderson hosting a show like Who’s Line Is It Anyway. (I called it What’s My Line Anyway.) That’s an idea I had a few weeks ago, to try and set up a scene as a scene from a different improv show. Let’s see if I can do it in a show.

(Mandy said I did a good Clive Anderson impersonation. I also got good feedback on my George Lucas impersonation in the show last week. Who knew I could do impressions of arcane celebrities?)

After a heated debate on whether or not the game Oxygen Deprivation (a.k.a. Head in a Bucket) could be performed without a set up, we moved on. (Personally, while it could be done without a setup and the audience would catch on, I think it would be stronger with one. An example for the no-setup faction was Spit-Take which we play sans intro. My feeling is that spitting water at a shocking statement is something that could exist in reality. But putting your head in a bucket of water on the side of the stage doesn’t exist in any reality outside of an improv show, unless one is given to it. Another example given was Bell Games that are played without setups. I actually don’t like those either. I think they break from the reality we’re creating and are stronger when set up somehow.)

I took notes a couple times last weekend, once while I was also lighting. I noticed, perhaps only because as the lighting improvisor I was particularly focused on the scene’s endings, that scenes tended to fall into three categories: Sketch or Short-Form Scenes, Slice of a Long-Form Scenes, and Self-Contained “Middle” Scenes. I also noticed that we didn’t know how to end the latter of those. I could see the improvisors getting deep into a “Middle” scene, realize it needed to end, and then search for a Sketch ending, which wouldn’t end the scene.

We spent some time working on these and quantified some of the differences. A Sketch Scene riffs on an idea and ends when it peaks. It doesn’t really matter if the character change or not. They probably don’t. We don’t often know because the scenes are very surfacey.

A Slice of a Long-Form Scene has a lot of backstory. A lot has happened before this moment and a lot will happen after. It’s a tiny piece of a large arc, and as a result the scene’s arc itself is rather flat. The character’s probably don’t change unless this slice happens to be the change moment.

A Self-Contained “Middle” Scene has a beginning, middle, and end. It has a complete arc within itself. One character might go on that arc or all of them, but for the scene to end the arc needs to arc. For that to happen, a character generally needs to change.

That can be the key to saving a scene that’s not going anywhere. Simply allow your character to arc, build emotion and the release it, and that becomes what the scene is about.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Rehearsal #10: Dance and Play

We started off last night’s rehearsal by working on dancing. We end up singing a fair amount in this show and anytime there’s singing, there’s likely to be backup dancing. So we worked on movement and basic dance vocabulary a little. Then we took turns leading steps with a couple followers and finally had someone fake sing a lead vocal while three people danced behind them. The point was to be aware of stage picture and style matching so that the dancers all look like they belong from the same show.

One of the cast members of this show, Dave, is a social dancing instructor. He ran us through a quick 15-minute lesson in partner dancing, and I learned so much in that short period of time! About how to lead. About how to follow (in improv you never know when your character might be a woman). It was amazing!

Then Christian wanted to work on letting one scene inform the next, not necessarily overtly, but through taking some element of the first scene and using it in a different way in the second. Then we added on top of that the desire to perform more theatrical and play-like scenes. That’s accomplished by not looking at each other so much (improvisors are trained to make eye-contact a lot which is necessary for beginners but isn’t necessary in plays), speaking obliquely (characters in plays frequently don’t directly answer questions or they carry on separate conversations concurrently; the key for doing this in improv is to not let the offers drop even though you’re not immediately responding to them), allowing for small parts (you might be onstage the entire scene but only have one line), and only saying as little or as much as the playwright wrote (meaning, some lines can be incomplete thoughts and some lines can be monologues).

After we did that for a while, we added yet another layer: we played arms, moving bodies, audience lines, he said/she said, scene in reverse, etc. The point here was to not let the game’s hoop derail the scene. Instead use the hoop to inform the scene. You’re still doing a committed scene from a play, it just happens to be the forward/reverse version.

This weekend’s shows should be a lot of fun and feature some unique casts. Friday and Saturday’s casts are identical: Christian, Clay, Mandy, and Melissa. Ever wondered if it’s really improvised? Come see the same cast perform two nights in a row and find out!

Thursday’s show features an all-male cast: Alan, Christian, Clay, and Dave. Next Thursday’s show features an all-female cast: Lyn, Mandy, Melissa, Merrill. Come to this week’s show and you can get in to next week’s for just $10!